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August 18, 2021

Youth city builders are taking ownership of the future of cities and there is no stopping them 

Catching up with the winners of the Future City Builders Urban Action Pitch Night in Winnipeg 

Young city builders from Winnipeg are paving the way for better communities. With them, the future of our cities is looking bright.   

Across Canada, there is no shortage of urban challenges facing communities. Now more than ever, finding innovative solutions for livable, inclusive cities has become crucial, and youth are ready for the challenge. Armed with creativity, determination, and ideas galore, 24 young leaders from Winnipeg are championing solutions for healthy communities and leveraging change for a big impact.  

To turn their ideas into reality, they need the tools and resources to take action. The Future City Builders project is set up to help youth do just that. The program, led by Evergreen, connects them to a network of funders, peers and mentors, and equips them with the design thinking skills to spark meaningful change in their community. 

After months of research, interviewing, mapping and critical thinking, the Future City Builders of Winnipeg pitched their solutions to a panel of judges that included local Winnipeg leaders Shreeraj Patel, Erica Daniels and Natalie Bell for the chance to win $5,000 in seed funding. The four teams brought to the table an array of ideas for bettering cities ranging from mental health support and mobility solutions to composting and community-led design thinking workshops. 

The winning idea? Lighthouse, a wellness app designed by Participants Caitie Chornous, Eamon Kuffert, Evan Husack, Genoa Debruin, Gerald Beta, and Sasha Delaquis.

Lighthouse explained 

The wellness app is designed to connect young people to free, personalized, and locally accessible mental health resources. With Lighthouse, users can access a range of services – from databases and counselling to mindfulness exercises and safe spaces. The app walks users through a series of questions and offers customized recommendations of support services in their area based on their identity and specific needs.  

For the team of six, all of them mental health advocates, this solution was born out of a bleak realization: Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, young people have reported the greatest decline in mental health, with minority groups even more impacted. And while help is out there, youths are faced with barriers to access services: 

“There are tons of great organizations, but the problem was connecting people to these resources that kids simply weren’t using," Chornous said. “We thought if we could be the middlemen between the people in need and the organizations that provide these services, we’d make a difference. The idea just came naturally from that.” 

Lighthouse was supported by Jackie Wild, Senior Community Investment Manager at Telus, over the course of the program, one of four dedicated Community Connectors that support the participants in their research, outreach and pitch preparation.

What comes next 

These young leaders are just getting started. Now that they’ve won the seed funding, it’s time to get the ball rolling on next steps. In the first stage, they plan to establish partnerships with mental health service providers.  Already, the team has been approached by several organizations, including the Robb Nash Project, an immersive experience that uses music and storytelling to address difficult mental health-related topics. Once partnerships are secured, an in-depth research phase will follow to identify potential gaps not addressed by Lighthouse, before moving into design and coding of the app. The team hopes to see the app launched in the next 12 months.

The team is unanimous: The Future City Builders program helped them grow within their own leadership journey. As Debruin said, “The program was very beneficial to create connections and have an outlet to share openly. It helped us gauge our individual strengths and facets of ourselves and bring them to light. It’s a very unique program, and that’s why a lot of us advocate for it.” 

We are excited to see what this group of young leaders and change makers will accomplish next! 

 

Click here to learn more about the winning team of the Greater Toronto Area Urban Action Pitch Night.  

Applications to be a part of the next Future City Builders cohort in Edmonton, AB are open until September 6. Are you interested and committed to building healthier, more equitable cities? Click here for more details on how to participate.   

Future City Builders is funded by RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch and the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre. The Future City Builders program is an initiative of Future Cities Canada, a national collaborative platform accelerating innovation to transform cities.